A Brief History of Weed Vapes

Vaporizers have changed the way we talk about, and smoke, cannabis.


By: Troy Farah | motherboard.vice.com

Chris Folkerts remembers the first time he hit a weed vape. It didn't get him high, but he still considers the incident "probably the most powerful moment" of his life.

"Holy shit," Folkerts recalled thinking to himself. "This just fucking digitized weed."

That was seven years ago. At the time, Folkerts was working at a heavy metal record label in Los Angeles. But soon after his first toke of a pre-filled THC-infused vapor cartridge, he started to develop what would become the G Pen, and began hustling the devices from the trunk of his car. Today, Grenco Science, which Folkerts founded in 2012*, has become ubiquitous in hip hop culture. Everyone from Wiz Khalifa to Open Mike Eagle has rapped about the G Pen. Snoop Dogg had his own branded line.

The vaporizer market—estimated to now be worth billions, although exact numbers are hard to come by—barely existed a decade ago. Yet, it's completely changed how thousands of people get high or administer medicine. How did it get this way? And where is the market headed?

Vaporizers, or vapes, have been around for a while, only now they can now pair with your smartphone, have no trouble vaporizing both cannabis concentrates and dry flower, and offer customized heating profiles. Some offer built-in water-filtration, while others look like fountain pens. The bulky Storz & Bickel's classic Volcano is now eclipsed by pocket portability and long battery-life. Trendy modern vapes now more closely resemble a flash drive than whatever wooden New Age gem box the Magic Flight is supposed to be.

This isn't a coincidence. The modern marijuana vape market is deeply rooted in Silicon Valley. Mark Williams, a co-founder of Firefly, a leading brand of cannabis vaporizers, started as a product developer at Apple. PAX Labs, which makes the PAX 3 weed vape and the Juul nicotine vape, began as a San Francisco startup. Just two years ago, the so-called "iPhone of vaporizers" had a $46.7 million Series C funding round to expand overseas. Even dispensaries strive to resemble Apple stores—part of an "upscale revolution in cannabis retailing."

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